Barnwell BM RS
Castle Mountain P300 RS
Piute Range HP P750
Ute BM
Eagle Mountain P300
Grotto Hills West P300
Grotto Hills East P300

Sun, Apr 29, 2018
Castle Mountain
Piute Range HP
Eagle Mountain
Story Photos / Slideshow Maps: 1 2 3 GPXs: 1 2 3 4 5 Profiles: 1 2


It was the last day my wife and I would be spending in Las Vegas. She was scheduled to fly back to San Jose in the evening after more volleyball reffing, while I was heading back to California on the road. We planned to meet up again the following weekend in Huntington Beach, so I had 5-6 days to make my way across the state. I was up early to beat the LA traffic leaving Las Vegas and made my way to the Mojave National Preserve with plans to tackle a handful of summits along the Lanfair-Ivanpah Rd. Much of the day would be spent driving from one remote location to the next, sort of planned that way to give my feet more rest time. I enjoyed the random driving around obscure desert roads looking for similarly obscure peaks, both good fun. Three of the hikes were pretty short at less than a mile round trip, but even the other two were only 2-4mi in length.

Barnwell BM

This local highpoint is found a mile and a quarter east of Barnwell at the junction of Ivanpah Rd and Hart Mine Rd. If there's half a dozen folks living in this run-down rural enclave, I'd be surprised. The hike off Hart Mine Rd is less than half a mile to the summit. Barbara Lilley had left a register here in 2014 on one of her last sorties. Mine was the only signature, a neat little feat that would be repeated a few more times today as I chased her ghost around Lanfair Valley.

Castle Mountain

Named by Purcell in his Rambles & Scrambles, this is the 3rd highest summit in the range. This was mostly a driving exercise, more than 10mi from Ivanpah Rd, with a rough Jeep road leading up to a high saddle a quarter mile from the summit. The summit is quite imposing from the west, with volcanic cliffs acting as high ramparts surrounding the top. The southeast side is easy class 2, but there are several fun class 3 routes up the west side. I went up one of these and down another. Finding no register at the top, I left one of my own. I was hoping to be able to use some obscure roads to get between Hart Mine Rd and the Piute Range to the south, my next stop. The Jeeps navigation system found a likely route which I attempted to follow, but it led through private property and along non-existent roads, ignoring other perfectly good roads. After some frustration, I gave up and drove back out to Ivanpah Rd, taking the looong way between the two sites.

Piute Range HP / Ute BM

This diminutive range is obscure and isolated and has little to recommend it. It consists of a single, low ridgeline, 12mi in length, running north to south. The highpoint is somewhat up for debate with two point separated by 2/3mi vying for the honors. Loj has the flattish, north summit as the highpoint, as determined by John Vitz. PB has Ute BM as the highpoint, this one determined by Richard Carey. Both of these veteran peakbaggers are usually pretty good about such things, so I figured I better visit both. A good deal more driving east from Ivanpah Rd got me to the west side of the range and the north summit. I hiked up from there over mellow terrain, all class 2. There is an old road that reaches the north summit from the north, no longer open to vehicle traffic as much of the range is now within the Mojave Wilderness. I found no register among the highest rocks. Looking south, Ute BM appears to be obviously higher, though this is often an optical illusion. I took a GPS reading and headed over to the south summit, a nice little stroll with only a modest amount of elevation loss between them. My second GPS reading at the south summit showed it to be 10ft higher. There was a Gordon/Barbara register here from 1993. There were several entries from folks who sighted the two summits and said that Ute BM is "clearly" higher. I don't know about it being obvious, but I would concur that Ute BM is probably the range HP. The benchmark was buried under an enormous summit cairn, but I did find one of the reference marks before heading back down. The round trip effort too just under 2hrs, the longest outing of the day.

Eagle Mountain

This is a short, easy hike to the highpoint of Lanfair Buttes, a small collection of hills a few miles east of Ivanpah Rd near Lanfair (another tiny desert community). My first effort to reach it was stopped by a home blocking the road and signed for No Trepassing. I found a little-used road to the south that went around his property, sort-of. There were more No Trespassing signs on the east side of his property that I went past, but there was no gate blocking the road this time. I parked just east of Eagle Well and hiked the short distance to the summit. Barbara had left a register here in 2011 and again mine was the only other entry.

Grotto Hills

This slightly larger collection of hills is due west of Eagle Mountain on the west side of Ivanpah Rd. No access issues for this one. I was able to drive a rough road into the small valley between the west and east highpoints, but it would be nearly as easy to simply hike them from Ivanpah Rd (which any vehicle can drive, indeed the van has been on it several times). It took less than an hour and a half to cover both summits in a triangle pattern. I went to the further and higher west summit first, finding a large 3-foot snake that skitted away before I could get a good pic. It wasn't a rattlesnake, that's about all I could determine. There is a benchmark marked "LEDGE" and a Richard Carey register from 2006. Lilley was here in 2011. The east summit featured the third Lilley register that I found with no additional entries, this one also from 2011. Nice!

I finished up shortly before 5p, showered, and headed to Needles where I would get dinner and spend the night. More CA desert fun tomorrow...


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